Short answers on Circumcision

For simplicity, this page may be cited as http://tinyurl.com/1liners.

(Here is the case for intactness in two minutes.)

Supporters of circumcision are very inclined to use dogmatic statements to close the discussion. Here are some answers.

When they say:

Short Answers are:

"It's cleaner."

So wash it.
Females also have smegma - should we cut them too?
What other part of the body do you cut off to keep it clean?
Do you brush your teeth, or do you have them pulled?

"It protects against penile cancer."

There's much less penile cancer in Denmark than the US and they don't circumcise there.
More men get breast cancer than penile cancer: why not cut off their breasts?
Fact: a circumcised man is at greater risk of penile cancer than a man with a normal foreskin.

(Click for graphic information on cancer.)

"It protects against Urinary Tract Infections."

Less than one boy in a hundred gets a UTI, and some of those are circumcised.
More girls get UTIs than boys - do you want to cut them too?
The best way to protect against UTIs is to breast-feed - and circumcision makes that harder.

(Click for graphic informaton on UTIs.)

"It protects against AIDS."

Not in Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland or Zimbabwe, it doesn't, and not in the US.

(Click for information on HIV/AIDS.)

"They'll tease him in the locker-room."

Tell him they're only jealous because he's got something they haven't.

"Dude let's get it straight, you are laughing at me because you got a part of your dick cut off?!"

Tell him to say, "Stop looking at my dick."
Nowadays they might tease him because he's the only circumcised one (and then what can you tell him?)

"It's a parental decision."

It's his decision.
So let's decide not to do it.
His body, his choice. (Other variations with pro-choice themes may useful, depending on the audience.)

(human rights)
"Parents have to make lots of decisions for their children."


Josef Fritzl

Joseph Fritzl

Warren Jeffs

Warren Jeffs

Ariel Castro

Ariel Castro

Philip Craig Garrido

Philip Craig Garrido

"Parents must make many decisions for their children."

This is the only case where parents decide how much of his body he gets to keep.
Yes, and deciding not to do it is the best/simplest/wisest/easiest decision.
This is the only decision that reduces his options irrevocably for the whole of the rest of his life.
Why only this part of the body, why only boys, and why only when he's too young to complain?
Yes, they have to decide between things of roughly equal merit. Cutting off part of his body is not in the same class as those.
Yes, and parents don't have to make lots of decisions (like whether to: dye their children green / cut off their earlobes / cut part off her genitalia)

"My sons say they're glad I had them circumcised"

Yes and before the Civil War, you'd find lots of slaves who'd say they were glad to be slaves.
(but arguments by analogy always risk getting side-tracked into the details of the analogy: here is a version to avoid that risk:)
They wouldn't if they knew what they're missing.
or, more threatening:
They won't when they find out what they're missing.
Most boys and men with foreskins are really glad they're not circumcised.

"You have a right to your opinion, and I have a right to mine."

And babies grow up to be men who have a right to their opinion about what part of their bodies they have cut off.

"I can't grasp why you say it's an ethical issue."

Is it an ethical issue if the baby is a girl?

"There are more important issues"

No question, and this one isn't too big for me to tackle.
Yes, and less important, which many people give more energy to.
Every issue is less important than some other issue*, so you can always say that.
Would you rather I was a couch-potato?
Yes, but if everybody gives all their attention to those, who's going to work on this one?

*except "saving the universe" (and for the record, everything is more important than "feeding rocks").

"Lots of events in a child's life are traumatic: birth is traumatic."

You can't avoid birth. You can avoid circumcision.
So why make it worse?

"You're attacking my [1st Amendment] freedom of religion."

Your freedom of religion ends where someone else's body begins. (You don't believe me? Come here, my religion is NoEarsism.)

You're attacking his freedom to choose his own religion, when he is old enough.

"Jesus was circumcised."

He was also crucified
So was Judas.

(See also these quotations from the New Testament)

"It's only a flap of skin."

It's fifteen square inches (100 sq. cm), the size of a file-card.
So is the eyelid "only a flap of skin". (So is the eardrum. And the lens of your eye is only a blob of jelly.)
or send them one of these postcards, and if they imagine it literally flaps, direct them to this animation.

"It's useless skin."

Men who still have it find it very useful.
That's for him to decide.

(or click here for a list of functions of the foreskin.)

"It's just a snip."

Yeah, like having all your toenails/teeth pulled is "just a yank".
No, it's an amputation.
Not exactly:

  • First they pump his stomach so that he won't vomit over his own wound, then
  • they may or may not give him two injections in the base of his penis, then
  • in order to see his glans to make sure not to cut it off, they cut a slit down his foreskin and tear it away from the glans, to which it is attached, leaving it bloody and raw...

(If they haven't stopped you yet, serve up the rest.)

"A boy should look like his father."

Leave him alone and he can look like his father whenever he wants. (One intact boy was overheard saying, "Now I look like Daddy, now I look like me, now I look like Daddy....")
Let him look like him.
Let's hope your father doesn't lose an eye or an arm.
If the father wants to match him, let him have his own penis modified - made much smaller, for starters.
So if it goes wrong and the boy loses his penis, will the father agree to make his own match his son?
How come they never said that before they started doing it?
Show me a kid with fond memories of what his father's penis looked like, and I'll show you a kid who needs some therapy.

See this cartoon.

"Women prefer it."

Only women in circumcising cultures or
Men in Africa prefer circumcised women.
Would you tolerate for a moment men expressing a preference in women's genitals - and imposing that preference on their baby daughters? or
Many men like big breasts - so should we give baby girls implants? or
Many women prefer complete/whole men.
Whose penis/body is it?

"I let my husband decide. He's the one with a penis."

But you any your son both have a prepuce.

"I'm happy with my decision to circumcise."Yes, but will he be happy with it? (It's not all about you.)

"He'll never get oral sex if he's not circumcised."

Tell him to dip it in chocolate.
Yes, a foreskin makes a good airhead repellant.

"If I had any more sensitivity, I couldn't stand it / I'd have a heart attack."

No wonder, the nerves they left you with are mainly sensitive to pain - but the nerves they took from you are mainly for pleasure.
Men who have all their penis can stand it just fine / don't have heart attacks.
Try stroking the palm of your hand, and compare it with the back. It's not just more sensitive, it's different.
If you have more penis, you have more space for that sensitivity, so it's no trouble.
If you had more nerves, you'd have more control. It's as if they took the accelerator pedal out of your car and left you with an on-off switch.

"What about abortion?" (Usually expressed in gruesome detail)

"Abortion is a different issue. Now, about circumcision..."
"I'm against full-term abortion. Now, about circumcision..."
"Do human rights end at birth? Now, about circumcision..."
"If you're against cutting them up before birth, you should be against cutting bits off afterwards."

Especially for men bemoaning their own circumcisions:

"It was years ago."

My foreskin hasn't grown back yet.

"I don't remember it."

Maybe not, but how long did it take you to forget?
(One study found circumcised babies react differently to the pain of vaccination months later.) or
So if you cut part off someone, but drug them first so they won't remember, does that make it all right?

"It was painless."

Have you heard how the babies shriek when the foreskin is torn away from the glans?
You want painless? Try leaving babies' dicks alone.
I'm still hurting.

"It was over in a few minutes."

But it's off for good.

"You can still feel things, right?"

Not as much as I was born to feel.

"... and you can still come, right?"

That depends whether you mean orgasm or just ejaculation.

"You have a penis fixation."

If this is a penis fixation, what do you call a compulsion to cut parts of penises off?
Do you tell a woman who's had a mastectomy [breast off] and wants a prosthesis [an implant] that she has a breast fixation?

(Thanks to Ken Drabik)

"It had to be done."

It didn't have anything. Otherwise-intelligent human beings made a conscious decision to do it.

"It wasn't a big deal"
"You're making a big issue out of nothing"

I thought you just said it was very important to do it
In that case, it'll be no big deal if it isn't done
My penis, my deal.

"You have to get over it."

I'll do that when they get over doing it.

Especially for people debating in public:

(Thanks to David Bradt)

"Hands up everyone in favour of circumcision."

I don't see any newborn babies' hands going up.
Hands up everyone in favour of human rights for all humans.

"But it's disgusting."

What's disgusting is cutting healthy parts off babies' genitals.
That's what they say in countries where they cut little girls, too.

"I'm proud of my full German helmet."

Very few Germans are circumcised.
or (if he's been annoying)
Does yours come to a sharp point?

"All that extra skin is ugly. Circumcision is prettier."

Whose skin is it? Let him decide if he thinks it's prettier.
That's what you say today, but by the time he grows up the fashion will have changed.


95% of infant circumcision in the US is gentile. We're against all of it.
We've got nothing against the covenant [bris], only the surgery [milah].
Don't you think Jewish babies have the same human rights as other babies?

(Click here for the case for Brit Shalom.)

"But when you're young it doesn't matter."

It doesn't grow back when you're old.

"Why do you want to talk about babies' dongs?"

Why do you [or Why does anyone] want to cut babies' dongs?
I'm talking about leaving them alone.


Who's the perverts - us, or the people who're obsessed with cutting babies' genitals?

"If they're wrong about that, they're wrong about everything."

They were wrong about thalidomide,
wrong about tonsillectomy,
wrong about sex reassignment,
and they're wrong about circumcision.

"Foreskins are used for skin grafts."

Yeah, robbing a peter to pay Paul.
Only in America: artificial skin is just as good - and it's ethical.

"It never did me any harm."

You're one of the lucky ones, then.
How do you know?
You mean, you don't know what you're missing.

"You/I can't miss what you/I never had"

I/you did have one, but it was taken from me/you by force.

"Too late for me."

Sorry to hear that, but not too late for a million US babies a year.

"Get a life!"

[The classic no-brainer, not worth answering, but:]
This is a better life than cutting parts off babies.
If you think this is not important, why is it so important to do it?


Got some more or better? Let me know.


The case for intactness in two minutes

Male babies are born with a foreskin. Sometimes one is born without one (aposthia) and no other defects, so if a foreskin were disadvantageous in any way, aposthia could and would have become the norm naturally.

The foreskin has several functions, protective and erogenous. Rich in specialised nerves, it enhances the sexual response. Men with foreskins don't have to work as hard as men without them to achieve orgasm, and can appreciate more sensation on the way, so they can control their progress more easily and enjoy the journey as well as the arrival. They can pay less attention to their own pleasure and hence more to their partner's.

An intact body is a basic human right. Parents do not have to make any decision about cutting normal, healthy, functional, non-renewable parts off their children. On the contrary, they hold their children's bodies in trust, with a responsibility to deliver them back to them on maturity in as far as possible their original condition.

Circumcision is a stone-age ritual that only survives because the people who do it are not those who have to live with it, and men circumcised as babies don't know what they are missing.

The medical benefits claimed for circumcision were all invented after it was already customary, justifications after the fact. By the circumcision-advocates' own figures, the vast majority of circumcisions are wasted in preventing any disease.

Circumcision carries a finite risk of death, but (scandalously) that is unknown. Neither doctors or parents are willing to acknowledge that their decision to circumcise, and doing so, led to a baby's death, so many circumcision deaths are probably blamed on some secondary cause.

The risk and harms of circumcision are understated, since parents imagine they need pay no attention to the circumcised penis, and circumcised men assume that what they have is all that anybody has.

Very few adult men ever choose to be circumcised, and where it is not already customary, very few ever are. Parents should defer to what the future adult would most likely choose when making irrevocable decisions about their children.

Circumcision meets the definition of bodily harm. By any rational reading of the law, circumcision without medical need is already illegal.



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